A Pilgrimage of Sorts…

June 16, 2017

If you’ve been following this story from the beginning, you’ll recall that we’ve done some stints off of the bikes to rest and recuperate. One of those breaks, you’ll remember, took place during a month in Indonesia. And a good stretch of that time was spent chilling out by the pool on the incomparable Gili Air near the Indonesian island of Lombok.

We had another one of those rest periods coming up, and this time it was going to begin, in a small world kind of way, with someone we met while in Gili Air. You might remember the time we spent at a nearby pool while staying at JW Homestay with Jamal and his family. There was a lot of tempeh and gado gado consumed during those poolside visits, but during one spell near the pool we met a lovely Dutch couple who were visiting Indonesia. And it just so happened that this Dutch couple had a home near the Dordogne in France where we would eventually be cycling through months later. It seemed like a whim, but we agreed to keep in touch with Suzanne and Peter in case we happened to cycle through their neck of the woods.

As we made our way to the edge of the Dordogne region, it put us right on target to land in the village of Béduer near Figeac in the Lot department of France where Suzanne and Peter live for part of the year. There would be a night of camping at the lovely Domaine de la Faurie campground in Séniergues before we would make it to Béduer. And before we could enjoy that night of camping, we would be trapped in Gourdon for an extended pizza and coffee lunch as we waited out one of the craziest rainfall inundations we have experienced on the trip.

The town of Gourdon is situated up on top of a hill. There’s a one-way street that wraps around part of the circular town set up, and while we were looking for a good lunch spot we found ourselves seemingly out of luck as the shops were closing down. Even the reliable tourist office was closed in Gourdon that day, so we didn’t even have a chance to ask them for a local recommendation. Just as we rounded the corner that would take us out of town, Bronwyn and I both spotted a pizza restaurant with an awning. As we mulled over whether or not to stop, the skies decided to crack open with a biblical fury and made the decision for us.

A pizza lunch and a couple of café crèmes later, we left our towertop lunch station and hit the grocery store to stock up for our two days to Béduer. The ride that day was uneventful compared to the storm we had narrowly missed, but we were thrilled to show up at our campground and settle in for the evening. We even made a furry friend.

The campground was built within the stone parameters of what looked like an ancient ruin of some kind. I never managed to ask the people running the place about its history, but we’ve started to recognize that most of the structures are really really old here in the Old World. The facilities, however, were nice and modern and we had the hot showers that we had been waiting to have.

Christian on a green tarp with breakfast and coffee spread out in front of him.

We don’t always eat breakfast on the ground sitting on a tarp. But why shouldn’t we?

After some breakfast pain au chocolat and a baguette purchase the next morning, we were off in the direction of Figeac.

This took us right to the edge of the Route of Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage hike, known also as the Camino de Santiago, which takes thousands of pilgrims every year across Western Europe to the northwest corner of Spain.

We would later learn that Suzanne’s wonderful property not only overlooks part of the route, but that she regularly welcomes people into her home that are taking the pilgrimage.

It was wonderful to see Suzanne after so long. Peter was back in Holland on business, but we would meet up with him after visiting with Bronwyn’s parents in the south of France. Our stay would just include the three of us for the first night we were there.

 

Suzanne’s property is a marvellous melange of old buildings made new; the first floor of her home was built in 1887 before the mayor of the local town lived there around the turn of the century, at which time he built a second storey and some outbuildings. Suzanne told us that one of the outbuildings predates any of the other buildings on the site, including the late 19th century building that serves as her home while in France. We would be stationed in this (now modernly-renovated) outbuilding, a two-storey old stone building that connects to the main house through a patio.

I could go on and on about the different ways that they have renovated their home to install a painting and sculpture studio, a tool shop, and a conference hall in the old barn, but I would be remiss to attempt it with mere words and photos. It’s really a remarkable place that needs an in-person visit. The views are spectacular.

To rekindle some Balinese nostalgia, Suzanne prepared our old favourite for dinner: gado gado. We sat and chatted well into the evening and filled in many of the blanks that had happened since we were last together in Indonesia. We also learned that the next night we would be joined by Joop and Marlaine, another Dutch couple we had met at the poolside. A true reunion of sorts.

The next day we took a drive into Figeac and explored the town. After a coffee stop and a visit to the replica Rosetta Stone outside the Jean François Champollion Museum, we made a stop at the local boulangerie before heading back to Béduer.

The town of Figeac from above.

The town of Figeac from above.

Before we could make it to the car, Suzanne noticed a young man with a backpack and a Weimaraner at the side of the road. After Suzanne’s dog, Doppy, took notice, she inquired as to whether or not the Weimaraner was young and if she was accompanying him on the pilgrimage route.

Ever true to her nature, Suzanne offered the young pilgrim a ride to the next town and a hot meal at home within three minutes of talking.

We learned that Peer (great name, right?) and Luna had started in Bern, Switzerland and had already completed over 1000 km of their walk. Peer was thrilled to meet us and join us for dinner. The entire day turned into a long conversation about personal exploration, travel, human connection and aspiration. We were constantly amazed at how a chance meeting on the street in a lesser-known town had turned into such a special day for all of us. When Joop and Marlaine arrived the experience increased even more. Several bottles of wine and a wonderful dinner later, and we were all more physically exhausted and more spiritually fulfilled.

The next day we paid Joop and Marlaine a visit at their amazing home – another ruin converted into a dream home setup, including a yurt structure that they built to live in while they constructed their amazing current home. Bronwyn had her internal personal Pinterest feed going off as we toured through the different spaces on the property, including a small dovecote that they had converted into a sauna space. Absolutely beautiful.

With the point of our departure to visit Bronwyn’s parents in Argelès-sur-Mer nearing, we bid goodbye to Peer and Luna in Cajarc and wished them well. After parting ways, Suzanne was nice enough to deliver us to the Figeac train station so that we could make the six-hour three-train ride trip to the south of France and continue with days of reunion and rests from our bikes.

Author: Christian

Middle school teacher on hiatus/budding permaculturalist currently cycling the world. Sometimes he acts in plays and film. Mostly he travels and blogs about it. Christian is one of the founders of onlyamazingdays.com

1 comment

  1. Comment by Lynne/mom

    Lynne/mom Reply June 28, 2017 at 9:04 am

    Special places and special people! 😊❤️

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